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GLEA approves well water testing plan

December 15, 2010 | 08:35 AM
Linn — Next summer, town residents may have an opportunity to test their tap water for chemical and biological contaminants.

The Geneva Lake Environmental Agency and the Linn Town Sanitary District are working on a cooperative program to provide private well owners the opportunity to have their well water tested for fecal coliform bacteria and nitrates at a state certified lab, said Ted Peters, director of the GLEA. Peters also is president of the Linn Sanitary District board.

Everyone in the town drinks from private wells, Peters said. Included in the program would be informational fliers sent out to residents explaining the importance of groundwater protection.

The GLEA board formally approved moving ahead with the project at its Thursday, Dec. 9, meeting. Although the Linn Sanitary District Board has yet to formally approve the plan, officials informally lent their support to the idea.

The program time line calls for information sheets to be mailed to residents once a month from January through March. In April, residents would receive information about the well-testing program, with a reminder sent out in May.

Peters said he estimates that there are about 1,900 or so residential property owners with wells in the town of Linn.

A community meeting would be scheduled in June with residents interested in having their water tested, to distribute presterlized bottles and give instructions on how to take samples.

While the initial test will be for fecal coliform bacteria and nitrates, Peters said, it's possible that homeowners could apply for other tests as well.

Once the results are available, a public meeting will be scheduled to discuss the results. Homeowners will be informed of the results, what they mean, and what, if anything, needs to be done to continue to monitor their well water and maintain groundwater integrity.

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The testing program would be voluntary, but Peters said he believes there will be a demand for the tests.

In May, the Lake Geneva Beach Association, a vacation subdivision on the south side of the lake, had some flooding problems. Peters said he went to talk to the association members about the flooding, but learned that they were more concerned about how the flooding impacted their wells, he said.

He said Linn Sanitary District officials are interested in the education and testing as a followup to the district's private sanitary system inspection program.

Virtually all residents living around the lake drink groundwater, whether drawn by a private or municipal well. Within the town of Linn, private residents are responsible for the quality of their own drinking water.

Peters said he sees this as a start to disseminating information gathered from a groundwater study

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He said he also hopes the program can be tied in with a recent groundwater study the GLEA completed with the cooperation of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.

The four-year survey mapped the groundwater flows around Geneva Lake and tracked how wells are drawing down the water table.

Among the more surprising results of the survey is that nearly a third of Geneva Lake's water comes from groundwater. Earlier estimates said only 10 percent of the lake's water came from groundwater.

The survey also states residential, industrial and municipal wells are drawing only about 4 percent of the total water in aquifer, Peters said.

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